Round robin gives Vigneault chance to find Flyers’ right mix

Alain Vigneault

      They’re playing with house money, so why not go all in?

      When the fourth-seeded Flyers begin the round robin seeding tournament on Sunday against Boston, that’s a question a lot of people are going to be asking.

      Should the Flyers take on this three-game affair like their playoff lives depend upon it (which it doesn’t), or maybe take a more measured approach and hope for a win or two to move up in the seedings?

      After all, earning a higher spot really doesn’t present that much of an award. There won’t be any home-ice advantage in later rounds to speak of and while getting up to No. 1, 2 or 3 could offer a lower-seeded team, who knows what sneaky giant-killer lurks in the weeds?

      Coach Alain Vigneault acknowledges there are points to be made for both sides of the debate.

      Either way, he’s going to be working on finding the right mix for when games really count in the first official round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

      “There’s that fine balance in between both,’’ Vigneault said during a Zoom teleconference call from Toronto. “The worst we could be is fourth, but we do have the opportunity to improve.

      “We, as a staff, a team and an organization, have to measure what’s the best thing for us right now. Is it to be higher seed or is it to prepare our team and prepare our players the best way that we can in this situation?’’

      Vigneault already has said he will split the goaltending duties, starting Carter Hart against Boston and then using Brian Elliott for either the game against Washington or Tampa Bay.

      Meanwhile, he might tinker with his lineup. There are jobs up for grabs. While defenseman Robert Hagg seems the likely starter for the Boston game, Shayne Gostisbehere has looked quite mobile in training camp and the first (and only) preseason game.

      Up front, there’s the matter of finding the right fit on the lower lines, especially the fourth. If rookie Joel Farabee plays, a veteran like Nate Thompson might have to sit.

      “I think we are going to find that balance,’’ Vigneault said. “Obviously right now, first and foremost on my mind, we got some good internal competition within our group right now for different roles, different spots on the team. We’ve got to sort that out.

      “At the same time, guys haven’t played for almost five months here. They’ve got to get their rhythm. They’ve got to get their timing on the ice. We got to get back to hopefully as close as to where we were prior to when we were stopped from playing. We’ll balance that out. We’ll sort out the decisions we have to make. We’re going to do the big picture here moving forward.’’

      Both Scott Laughton and Ivan Provorov say these three games will give the team a chance to fine-tune things, especially after such a long time off.

      And the natural instinct is to not let off the gas pedal.

      “You play the game to win,’’ Laughton said. “Everyone’s competitive. I think it matters for sure. I don’t know about the reseeding or anything like that. Every game you go into, you are going to try and win. Build confidence and carry that into the playoffs. We’re focused on doing that and trying to get better as we go along.

      Added Provorov: “Winning is important. We have 20 competitors on the ice. We want to win every time we step on the ice. That’s what we are going to try to do. I think if we don’t win one game or something, it will be nice to learn from our mistakes and be glad that we have this opportunity. Like I said, we are going to go on the ice and try to win every shift and every game.’’

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 993 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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